Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Masjid Tengkera | Shaykh Abdul Latif - scholar, writer, philanthropist


A couple of postings ago, I briefly wrote about a trip to Pulau Besar, Melaka (two hours south of KL). After visiting the grand maqam of Sultan Ariffin Shaykh Ismail on the island, we left with one intention, that's to stop by at Masjid Tengkera on mainland. I thought my travel mates ought to see the mosque because it's chic, classic and pretty.  

It was my second time there and their first time, yet it was the 'first timers' who indirectly introduced me to one excellent personality - the late Shaykh Abdul Latif bin Haji Muhammad Nuruddin @ Haji Tamby (1872 - 1939) who was buried within the compound of the lovely mosque. The description of him on the notice board was very impressive. To me, he is a superb-man.

Shaykh Abdul Latif who was of Indian descent, was a renowned scholar, not just in his home state Melaka but also Penang, Singapore and Indonesia. Imagine being sent off to study in Mekah at the tender age of 8. The shaykh then spent some 20 years studying under prominent Malay scholars in Mekah, among whom was Shaykh Muhammad bin Ismail Daud al-Fathani.

Upon his return from Mekah, he became a well known scholar himself especially in Singapore where he first began teaching from a nook on Arab Street where his father owned a textile shop. He was also a prolific writer/publisher who had his own printing company - the Lathifiyah Press in Singapore and another one in Melaka. His enterprising capacity enabled him to be generous towards others. Shaykh Abdul Latif was also well liked for his oral skills and humor. 

It was his great grandfather Haji Muhammad Saleh who built the Tengkera Mosque in 1728. Six years later, in 1734, Haji Muhammad Saleh who was also known as Nahkoda Nan Intan became the first man to have discovered Penang ahead of Captain Francis Light and opened Penang's first mosque in Batu Uban. In 1896, as a good friend of Habib Noh the grand saint of Singapore, he built a mosque adjacent to Habib Noh's maqam. 

How cool is that? Learning history is indeed fun. Visiting maqam of such great people makes us realize how insignificant we are.

The maqam of Shaykh Abdul Latif and his father Haji Muhammad Nuruddin @ Haji Tamby are located at Masjid Tengkera in Melaka. The maqam of his great grandfather Haji Muhammad Saleh @ Nahkoda Nan Intan is situated at Masjid Batu Uban in Penang.


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